James Owen Sullivan (February 9, 1981 – December 28, 2009), professionally known by his stage name The Rev (shortened version of The Reverend Tholomew Plague), was an American musician, composer and songwriter, best known as the drummer, composer, songwriter, co-lead vocalist and founding member for the American heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold. The Rev was widely regarded and critically acclaimed for his work on Avenged Sevenfold albums, and contributed entire songs written and composed by himself, such as Chapter Four, Afterlife, "A Little Piece of Heaven" and Almost Easy. He was also the lead vocalist/pianist in Pinkly Smooth, a side project where he was known by the name Rathead, with fellow Avenged Sevenfold member, guitarist Synyster Gates (Brian Elwin Haner Jr.), and he was the drummer for Suburban Legends from 1998 to 1999.
Sullivan grew up and lived in Orange County, CA. He received his first pair of drum sticks at the age of five and own drum set at the age of ten. In high school, he started playing in bands. Before leaving to join Avenged Sevenfold as one of the band's founding members, Sullivan was the drummer for the third wave ska band Suburban Legends. At the age of twenty he recorded his first album with Avenged Sevenfold titled Sounding the Seventh Trumpet. His early influences included Frank Zappa and King Crimson. The Rev said in a Modern Drummer Magazine interview that "I was raised on that stuff as much as rock and metal."
Later in life he was influenced by drummers Vinnie Paul, Mike Portnoy (who would later be his fill-in with Avenged Sevenfold), Dave Lombardo, Joey Jordison, Lars Ulrich and Terry Bozzio. He had a "visual influence," Tommy Lee, on which he commented that he "never thought I'd have one of those." Sullivan had a signature ability called "the double-ride thing" or "The Double Octopus," as the Rev called it, "just for lack of a better definition." "The double-ride thing" is a technique that can be heard on tracks such as "Almost Easy," "Critical Acclaim," "Crossroads," and "Dancing Dead" in which Sullivan doubles up at a fast tempo between the double bass and ride cymbals.
The Rev was a drummer, composer, songwriter, vocalist and pianist for Avenged Sevenfold. His vocals are featured in several Avenged Sevenfold songs, including "Strength of the World," "Afterlife," "A Little Piece of Heaven," "Almost Easy," "Scream," "Critical Acclaim," "Lost," "Brompton Cocktail," "Crossroads," "Flash of the Blade (Iron Maiden cover)," and "Fiction." His music composing and songwriting are done in several songs for Avenged Sevenfold like "A Little Piece of Heaven," "Afterlife," "Almost Easy," "Bat Country," "Beast and the Harlot," "MIA," "Unbound (The Wild Ride)," "Blinded in Chains," "Buried Alive," "Fiction," "Brompton Cocktail," and more. Avenged Sevenfold released a demo version of "Nightmare," featuring The Rev on an electronic drumset and some vocals.
At the second annual Revolver Golden God Awards, The Rev won the award for Best Drummer. His family members, and Avenged Sevenfold, received the posthumous honor on his behalf.
In an Ultimate Guitar online reader's poll of the "Top Ten Greatest Drummers of All Time," The Rev appeared at #8, placing higher than Bill Ward of Black Sabbath, and lower than Keith Moon of The Who.
Pinkly Smooth was an American heavy metal/avant-garde metal band. The band was formed in the summer of 2001 in Huntington Beach, California, as a side project for Avenged Sevenfold's drummer/composer/songwriter Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, and originally featured The Rev (under the name "Rathead") on vocals, along with fellow Avenged Sevenfold member Synyster Gates on guitar and former Ballistico band members Buck Silverspur (under the name "El Diablo") on bass and Derek Eglit (under the name "Super Loop") on drums. They released only one album, Unfortunate Snort, which featured former Avenged Sevenfold bassist Justin Meacham (under his stage name "Justin Sane") as a keyboard player.
- Rathead (The Rev) – vocals, piano, drums (2001–2002)
- Synyster Gates – guitar (2001–2002)
- El Diablo (Buck Silverspur) – bass (2001–2002)
- Super Loop (Derek Eglit) – drums (2001–2002)
- Justin Sane (Justin Meacham) – keyboards (2001)
The Rev was found dead in his Huntington Beach home on December 28, 2009. Police ruled out foul play and noted his death appeared to be from natural causes. An autopsy performed on December 30, 2009 was inconclusive, but toxicology results revealed to the public in June that he died from an overdose of oxycodone (Percocet), oxymorphone (a metabolite of oxycodone), diazepam (Valium), nordiazepam (a metabolite of diazepam) and alcohol. The coroner noted cardiomegaly (enlarged heart) as a "significant condition" that may have played a role in Sullivan's death.
On January 6, 2010, a private funeral was held for Sullivan, and then he was buried in Huntington Beach, California. Shortly after his death, Avenged Sevenfold dedicated their fifth studio album Nightmare (released that same year) to him, as well as several songs, including "So Far Away," which had been written by band mate (and childhood friend) Synyster Gates; and "Fiction," which The Rev had written three days before his death. M. Shadows and Synyster Gates have stated in an interview to Hard Drive Radio:
"[...]The eeriest thing about it is there is a song on the album called "Fiction" (a nickname The Rev gave himself) which started out with the title "Death." And it was the last song The Rev wrote for the album, and when he handed it in, he said, 'That's it, that's the last song for this record.' And then, three days later, he died, the last song he wrote was "Fiction" one of the verses from The Rev was "I hope it's worth it here on the highway I know you'll find your own way when I'm not with you tonight."
With Suburban Legends
- Origin Edition (1999)
With Pinkly Smooth
- Unfortunate Snort (2001)
With Brian Haner
- Cougar Bait (2008)
- Fistfight at the Wafflehouse (2010)